TheHunter: Call Of The Wild has gorgeous scenery

I find it difficult to resolve my playing of hunting sims: on the one hand, I enjoy their challenge and detail and often beautiful open worlds; on the other hand, I dislike that they’re about killing harmless animals. These thoughts are rushing back to the surface after seeing the announcement of theHunter: Call Of The Wild [official site]. It’s powered by the same engine as Just Cause 3 so it looks gorgeous, but the trailer below is about shooting an oblivious grazing animal.

I like the way that hunting sims can make all the little things you do in a first-person shooter more deliberate. You think about where you’re positioning yourself a lot more, as targets will flee not only if they see you but if they can smell you. You’re careful about where you’re stepping, because you’re not just making noise but leaving tracks wherever you go. You’re often aiming not just to kill, but to kill as humanely as possible, which means you’re thinking about more than just headshots.

The catch with these games for me is that I’d rather I wasn’t hunting animals. I’d be more comfortable if your targets were humans, even. The animals are mostly defenseless and pose no threat to the player, so as in real life hunting them for sport seems plain mean. I think my ideal hunting sim would be one that has a photography mode, so I could be forced to consider all the same things as mentioned above but my final shot is from a camera rather than a rifle. In the words of the trailer above, I’d rather just be visiting. A tourist in this land.

If you’re not familiar, this is a sequel to theHunter, an online, free-to-play hunting sim which has been out for seven years. I played it just a little but not enough to pay for anything in it. The sequel is said to feature 50 square miles of terrain, including wetlands, forests, valleys and open fields, although the terrain is “split up into separate and distinct hunting reserves,” so I’m not sure if you can walk seamlessly across that terrain. You can also play it in 8-person multiplayer, if you want to team up against the furry animals.

I sort of do. Your mileage may vary.

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  1. Turkey says:

    There's actually a good reason in the lore why you have to hunt all the animals. Your character is a darkspawn half-lord hunter who needs blood to fuel his sanguine darksword. Which is the only weapon that can defeat lord Meltgard, the shadowlord.
  1. Flangie says:

    There are many games that require you to kill innocent (simulated) animals. The recent Far Crys, for instance. Or Minecraft.

    Has got to be better than going full-dentist on real ones….

    • SuicideKing says:

      I remember FC3 got some flak for that. I remember finding hunting deer with a bow and arrow oddly primal and satisfying – but i didn’t really do much hunting in FC3 (beyond needing stuff for upgrades).

  2. Sin Vega says:

    The Carnivores series seem like a fairly good solution, though I only played the Ice Age one. All of the animals could easily kill you if you got too close and/or startled them, and many of them actively hunted you, which leant the whole thing another dimension too as you periodically paused to reassess who was currently the hunter and who the hunted. They all had their own behaviour too (rather putting even most modern games with wildlife to shame), with the bird things in particular having a nasty habit of racing around in a huge semicircle to quietly charge and gore you from behind while you were busy watching that wolf. Many a Clever Girl moment was had.

    Also, you could use ‘tranquiliser’ rounds instead, with a trade off that they were weaker and left you with no ‘trophy’. The main downside being that the weakness meant they tended to become even more of a bullet sponge, which rather undermined the sensation that you were a hunter rather than a very persistent FPS meatslab.

  3. Chaz says:

    Well as long as it doesn’t follow the same free to play template as it’s predecessor it sounds like a game I’d like to play.

    I thought the Hunter was very good, and I’m not normally a hunting game type. However the micro-transaction model was just severely off putting for me and they weren’t cheap. So beyond the free stuff I never bothered with it.

    My other concern is how they handled the Hunter Primal, which they released into early access promising a Hunter type game with dino’s and no micro-transactions. It had great promise and I bought it myself. Great island environment, superb atmosphere. Then about 4 months after it had been in early access they released it as finished and then effectively abandoned it, despite the fact if was far from anything you’d consider a finished game.

  4. Kefren says:

    I agree that it would be better if you got to explore those environments and took photos instead. It seems silly to find something beautiful just to destroy it. The point where one of the recent Tomb Raiders wouldn’t let you proceed until you shot a deer (presumably then a magical barrier would fall) was the point I uninstalled after exploring and looking for any way out of the arena I’d been locked in for 20 minutes. The immersion was destroyed by the silliness of it. You can go a week or more without food; further, I had little doubt I’d come across camps or other humans soon enough, who’d have food supplies I could take. Games, eh.
    I’m sure you could find lots of games with nice scenery and interactions and things to explore without having to be based around killing.

    • Gurnu says:

      You have a digital camera in the original game; I have no doubt they’ll include it in this one, too.
      For me, it’s better to be able to take photos AND shoot some digital critters (better than shooting living ones, I think you’ll agree). Of course, you won’t get any points in the game for only photos, but hey, they’re just points in a game.

      Sure, there are games where you dilly-dally (like Firewatch) or figure out some puzzles (like The Witness) with amazing sceneries and they can be great. That’s not the point in this one, though; the point is hunting animals for your enjoyment if you can’t or don’t want to hunt for real.

    • iucounu says:

      There’s a lovely story by Lawrence Block called CLICK! in which two strangers meet up at a hunting lodge and fall into conversation about hunting. One of them explains that while he grew up killing animals, he has become sickened by it; he’s traded his rifle in for a camera and gets all the pleasure of stalking something without the death at the end of it.

      His new pal thinks this is a fine idea and resolves to try it. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s in Block’s Collected Stories, possibly the best value collection of short stories I’ve ever read.

  5. Mud says:

    “I dislike that they’re about killing harmless animals”

    I agree, killing harmless people in games feel so much better.

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      shevek says:

      I think there’s a question of moral character here. Killing harmless people in a game generally means you’re playing in character as a bad person, which can feel liberating. A game about hunting doesn’t have that implicit moral stance which means there’s less disconnect between you and the character you’re playing, especially if it’s framed as a real-world simulation. So if you’re someone who feels sympathy for wild animals then I can understand it might be hard to set that aside even if (say) knocking down pedestrians in GTA doesn’t bother you.

      • Kefren says:

        That’s a good explanation, thanks.

      • Urthman says:

        So basically what these games need are Hitman-style cutscenes before each level showing the deer or the bunny doing something despicable to demonstrate it’s an amoral bastard that deserves to die.

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          shevek says:

          Or voiceovers in the style of Dungeon Keeper. “Leafy Meadow is plagued by innocent bunnies that skip and play all day long. They must learn that survival is only for the strong!”

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      magogjack says:

      Culling animal populations is a good idea. For example if you have too many deer then the local predator population will also rise. Over time the deer population will begin to forage for food in Human communities, this leads to cougars/wolves etc. following them. If even then they are left to their own devices, the deer will start to starve once they run out of food.

  6. maninahat says:

    One of these hunting games I had featured the “Sniper:Elite” slow-mo kill cam. It was tasteless and fun, I wonder if this game will have it.

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      Graham Smith says:

      You’re thinking of Cabela’s Big Game Hunter. It judged you if you shot an animal in the lungs (a slow death) versus the heart or brain, and showed you as your bullet sliced through their innards, ricocheting off the deer’s spine in order to land in their kidneys. Rewarding and disturbing and gross? Just like Sniper Elite, though it helps if you can imagine the deer are Nazi sympathizers.

      This game doesn’t have that feature, as far as I know.

      • maxcolby says:

        Uh, wrong. You wanted a lung shot. A double lung shot is a killshot and what you really want while hunting. Headshots are pretty difficult.

  7. neofit says:

    If that’s the sequel to the game I think it is, IIRC the actual hunting part was quite fun. You checked tracks, sound, you tried not to spook your prey with sound and smell, etc. But the need to pay a monthly fee for access to single-player maps, as well as the inability to save during a potentially multi-hour hunt ruined it for me.

  8. Turkey says:

    There’s actually a good reason in the lore why you have to hunt all the animals. Your character is a darkspawn half-lord hunter who needs blood to fuel his sanguine darksword. Which is the only weapon that can defeat lord Meltgard, the shadowlord.

  9. Stevostin says:

    I don’t know in game but some animals are everything but harmless. Especially in those landscape. I don’t want to miss a boar, a bear, a wolf, a Lynx, for instance. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t triumph in a brawl with those.

    Also we’ve been killed how many times by rats in RPG, already? Time for revenge against those nasty virtual animals.

    • Generico says:

      You wouldn’t win a brawl with a “defenseless” deer either. One good kick and you’re dead. Oh, and those antlers aren’t just for fun either.

  10. Kong says:

    In a world where we consume industrial meat it seems irritating to me that you have a problem with hunting virtual animals.
    Mass production and slaughter of animals is one of the grand perversions of everyday life.
    The wild beasts had a great life and the goal is to kill them as quick as possible.

    My question to real life hunters: how good are those simulations in order to learn a little about the real thing?

    • Sin Vega says:

      I think “the wild beasts had a great life” is rather romanticising the brutal, terrifying existence most animals experience in the wild, to be honest.

      • klops says:

        I think so too. Then again, comparing that life to the “life” most factory-farmed animals have, I pretty much agree with Kong.

      • Kong says:

        I recall that lengthy discussion with a Russian fellow. About the evalution of jungles in CIV.
        What I have learned: city people hate wild forests

    • maxcolby says:

      I dunno. I played TheHunter a bit and enjoyed it.(I tried to go back to it, but I didn’t want to resubscribe and what you could hunt was very limited. )
      I played the Cabela’s Big Game or something like that. The one that someone mentioned above with teh slow mo shot cam stuff.
      That one was enjoyable, a bit more arcadey than TheHunter, but with the shot cam really showed you about shot placement. Its something I kept in mind while hunting last month.
      I will say this. I have much more patience in tracking/waiting for a good shot on the game than I do in real life. hah.
      Tracking is quite a bit more difficult in the real world. A day old and an hour old look about the same around here.
      I did a bit of blood tracking last year in Eastern Oregon that I found out I was pretty good at. Finding a blood drop smaller than a penny by the light of a headlamp is fulfilling. hah. You have a better understanding of where teh deer is likely to run in the real world(usually teh path of least resistance if its open)but in teh games they tend ot just run straight through large bushes that your character can’t. hah.

      • Kong says:

        I admit to understand the need to hunt pigs and deer in cultured forests in order to maintain park culture

        there is always an alternative, but our shepherds do not like the ideas

      • Kong says:

        Thank you for the response.
        My biggest concern would be to not hit the right spot. If I can learn that in a game plus a little bit about tracking basics the next zombie apocalypse may come. Would not like to spoil important parts like the deer’s brain for example.

  11. Generico says:

    I typically kill defenseless animals with my car. Where’s that sim?

  12. fish99 says:

    The original The Hunter was one of the most atmospheric and beautiful games I’ve played, and the hunting was really fun too, but the payment model always put me off, so I didn’t play half as much of it as I would have liked.

    Hope this isn’t the same model.

    • maxcolby says:

      Yeah, I played it a bit last year. I did a one month subscription and got some ok stuff. I think I spentl ike $20 total and it was really enjoyable.
      I tried going back to it a couple months ago, but without paying money you are really limited to what you can shoot.

  13. Behrditz says:

    Any word on if this is using the same f2p model, or if its a full purchase?

    Also, if you like the detail in hunting, but dont like shooting defenseless animals, there IS “The Hunter: Primal” which uses all the same gameplay, but is about you hunting dinosaurs. You start off being dropped in with only a bow and arrow, but gear is scattered around the giant island, and your kills gain you trophy points (if you can confirm the kill) you can use to pre-equip yourself after each death.

    There are few things more stressful than hearing a small flock of raptors consistently trailing you and chirping just out of sight, but never actually appearing until you least expect it.

  14. LukeW says:

    I live on a farm and can say with complete belief that it’s better for an animal to be shot from a distance than trying to round it up so it can be killed in a more ‘civilised’ abbatoir, which are generally disgusting places full of stressed animals and shoddy practices.

    Not sure if the author to this piece is vegetarian or not, but the article comes across as a bit on the nose. I can’t stand the idea of trophy hunting if the animal’s carcass is just going to be left behind, but I wouldn’t have any qualms about playing a game like this. Games serve as the chance to do things we wouldn’t do in real life, whether it’s mowing down pedestrians in a stolen car, building cities with a few clicks of a button, or going out and simulating the act of hunting an animal.

    • Kong says:

      if the game has a trophy hall but no smoking lessons what can we possibly learn from it?
      Spring 2017 from the same Publisher/Producer/Dev team which gave me Mad Max?

  15. teethslapper says:

    Yes they are ‘poor, defenseless animals” but it’s obvious that most of the people here don’t actually know the reason a lot of us hunt. Animals aren’t able to roam free like they used to because of people’s need to expand and build everywhere. That and the fear of aggressive, ‘scary’ animals have caused a decline in the amount of natural predators.

    We hunt to keep the docile animal population in check, thus acting as the predators. If we didn’t do this then the population of deer, for example, would get out of control and they would start mating too much and with the same family which would cause weird mutations and other problems that come with overpopulation. In this case the hunter will usually take the carcass to be processed so the animal gets used instead of just left out in the wild.

    This applies to deer and other animals like them. I can’t speak for lions and exotic animals like that because I don’t see the point in pure trophy hunting.

  16. iRaphi says:

    @Graham
    the game you’re looking for is “Afrika” but sadly it was only released for PS3, as far as I know.

  17. myhandleonrps says:

    One of the rare cases where the headline is more of a review than the actual content of the article.

  18. noxohimoy says:

    Imagine, you are a park agent hunting to keep the population controlled, and the alien from alien isolation starts hunting you, stalking, baiting you, being really nasty and invincible.

    You need to save all the wildlife you can, but is extremely dangerous. You need to balance killing a deer to bait the alien, at the same time that you reveal your position by shooting.

    The game should be extremely hard and unforgiving, beautiful and sinister. The alien should do more than just hunting you. It should play cat and mouse, make traps, counter your strategy, really learning from your behavior (a lie which was absent in Alien Isolation), manipulate you to help him, make noises in the dark to scare you to a point where he has the advantage…

    That would be a game.

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